Fed Cup World Group II: Slovakia Upsets Italy, Russia, Belgium and Ukraine Take Care Of Business - UBITENNIS
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Fed Cup World Group II: Slovakia Upsets Italy, Russia, Belgium and Ukraine Take Care Of Business

In a surprise upset, Slovakia defeated Italy away, while the Russian D-team took care of Chinese Taipei. Belgium edged out Romania in three incredibly close matches, and Ukraine sent Australia into play-off from regional groups.

Jakub Bobro

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Slovakia 3-2 Italy

 

Both teams were forced to deal with decimated teams- Slovakia without Cibulkova and Italy without Vinci, Giorgi or Knapp. The tie was played on indoor clay in Forli, Italy. 36 year-old legend Francesca Schiavone opened the tie against World No. 252 Anna Schmiedlova. The 2010 French Open winner took the match 6-3 6-1, and got Italy off to a good start. Following it was a clash between Sara Errani and Fed Cup debutant Rebecca Sramkova. Errani seemed to have it under control, winning the first set 6-2, but once Sramkova’s hard hitting Giorgi-like game started to work, there was no coming back. The Slovak No. 2 turned the match around to win 2-6 6-3 6-4 in her Fed Cup debut. Day 2 was started by Sara Errani facing Daniela Hantuchova. Errani struggled with movement and is most likely injured, leading to Hantuchova winning 6-2 6-0, and Errani finishing the match in tears. Sramkova then had a chance to win the tie for Slovakia and send them into World Group play-offs and she took it. Her high risks brought high rewards against Schiavone, whose contrasting styles made for a great match to watch. Sramkova kept her cool in the important moments, and won 6-2 6-4. The dead doubles rubber had Paolini and Trevisan, young Italian talents play Schmiedlova and Sramkova, who retired from the match at 2-5. Sramkova had the best possible debut for her country, winning 2 out of 3 points that Slovakia won, against higher ranked and much more experienced players.

Russia 4-1 Chinese Taipei

Russia’s F-team played Taipei’s B-team in Moscow. Russia’s team featuring Ekaterina Makarova, Anna Blinkova, Natalia Vikhlyantseva, and Anna Kalinskaya faced Chinese Taipei without Su-Wei Hsieh and Yung-Jan Chan. Makarova opened the tie with a shaky 6-3 5-7 6-1 win over Ya-Hsuan Lee, only for Kai-Chen Chang to equal with a 6-3 7-5 win over Kai-Chen Chang. Makarova then took care of business against Chang, and Natalia Vikhlyantseva was brought in to finish the tie against Lee. The Russian did so in an impressive manner, winning 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes. Blinkova and Kalinskaya won the dead rubber over Chan and Hsu 6-3 7-5. If Russia can mobilize and get a better team together for the play-offs, they can be almost assured that they will have a place in the World Group again.

Belgium 3-1 Romania

Even without the injured Simona Halep, Romania were still the favorites with the home advantage. Niculescu and Flipkens began the tie, both players with quite unusual playing styles. The faster indoor hard court suited the Belgian better, and Flipkens got the first point for her nation, winning 6-3 6-4. Sorana Cirstea played the second match of the day against Yanina Wickmayer, who won the marathon 3 hour and 22 minute match 7-6(4) 5-7 7-5, sending Belgium to a 2-0 lead. For Day 2, both captains changed their original line-ups. Irina-Camelia Begu played for Romania, and Elise Mertens was to close out the tie out. Begu was up 6-3 5-4, but Mertens just edged her out, closed out the tie with an almost 3 hour match, 3-6 7-5 7-5. Dead doubles rubber was won by Romania, who fielded Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu, winning 6-2 6-0 over Kirsten Flipkens and Maryna Zanevska.

Ukraine 3-1 Australia

A Stosur-less Australian team was outed by Ukraine. Team led by Gavrilova failed to win any of the singles matches, and they could be relegated to the Asia/Oceania regional group for the first time in Fed Cup history, since 1963. Gavrilova really let her team down, as she lost easily to first Tsurenko, then to Svitolina. Ash Barty pushed Svitolina to three sets, but it was not enough. Ukraine move on to the World Group Play-Offs, and with an opponent like Netherlands, they can definitely be in World Group in 2018. Barty and Dellacqua got the doubles point for Australia, winning 6-2 2-6 10-8 over Nadia Kichenok and Olga Savchuk.

 

ITF

Controversial ITF Ranking System To Be Scrapped Following Player Backlash

The ITF’s new initiative that was launched in January is set to be axed after eight months.

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ITF president David Haggerty

After months of anger expressed by numerous players and tennis officials, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has agreed to scrap their controversial transition tour.

 

Implemented in January, the new format saw a two-ranking system be introduced into the sport for the first time. Lower ranked players had to earn ITF points whilst participating in the lower level tournaments and were therefore placed in a separate ranking. Then, once they won enough points, they could progress to either the ATP or WTA Tours. Furthermore, the qualifying draws for those tournaments were cut to only 24 players.

The revamp, which saw hundreds of players lose their rankings, drew outrage from many. Toni Nadal said only, ‘young rich people’ could play the sport under the new rules. Players had previously complained that they travelled to tournaments only to find out that they were unable to participate due to the reduced size of the draw. A change.org petition by Canada’s Maria Patrascu calling for changes to be made attracted more than 15,000 signatures.

After all of the turmoil, the ITF has finally backed down from their position. After discussions with both the ATP and WTA, it has been agreed that the two governing bodies will once again issue points to the $15,000 and $25,000 events. Meaning that players will only have one ranking system. Qualifying draws will also be increased to 48 players.

“The agreement includes the allocation of ATP and WTA ranking points at $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments, additional ranking points at men’s $25,000 tournaments, as well as increased playing opportunities with 48-player qualifying singles draws.” The ITF said in a statement.
“Players’ rankings will be updated with the new points allocations on 5 August 2019. These points will be applied retroactively to all tournaments played since August 2018.”

Trying to limit the bad publicity, the ITF opted to publish the new development shortly before the draws were made for the French Open, which starts on Sunday. In other developments, $15,000 tournaments will offer three places to top100 junior players. This rule doesn’t apply to any other level on the tour.

ITF president David Haggerty, who is up for re-election later this year, said he is committed to helping juniors progress onto the professional tour.

“Collaborating further with the ATP and WTA, our goal is to ensure the professional pathway from juniors to professional tennis is fit for purpose. It is vital that players have the opportunity to play and progress and nations can afford to host events in their countries at both professional and transitional levels.” Said Haggerty.
“These additional reforms to the pathway will further strengthen the new structure introduced in 2019, that in turn will create a true professional group of players, increase playing opportunities at all levels of the game, and help widen the number of nations hosting professional tournaments so that tennis can remain a truly global sport.”

A review is currently underway into a new developmental tournament for junior players to progress to the senior tour via the $15,000 events. These tournaments will offer ITF ranking points, but there are ongoing discussions with both national associations and relevant stakeholders of the ITF.

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Fed Cup

After 26 Years Of Heartbreak, Great Britain Finally Secures Fed Cup Promotion

After losing four play-off ties since 2011, the British team have finally scored the breakthrough they desired.

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Johanna Konta (image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA)

A duo of hard fought singles victories in London has made history for British Tennis after the Fed Cup team defeated Kazakhstan to reach the World Group stage for the first time since 1993.

 

Tied at 1-1 after the first day, Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter prevailed in both of their matches to hand Great Britain an overall 3-1 win over their opponents. The proceedings were opened up on Sunday by former top 10 player Konta. Taking on Yania Putintseva, Konta battled to an epic 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory. After dropping the opening set, she was then forced to recover from a 1-4 deficit in the decider to score the crucial victory. Putintseva, who was struggling physically during the match, is only the fourth top 50 player Konta has defeated so far in 2019.

“As a young girl, as an athlete wanting to make it to the top of my sport… you can only dream of this stuff.” She said during an interview with BT Sport. “Gosh that was one hell of a match wasn’t it?”

Following on from Konta’s heroics, it was Boulter’s chance to seal an unassailable lead for her country in the tie. Boulter wasn’t born until three years after her country was last in the World Group of the Fed Cup. The 22-year-old was out to seek redemption after squandering three match points on Saturday during her loss to Putintseva.

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This time round Boulter didn’t crumble when under pressure. Like teammate Konta, she roared back from a set down to defeat Zarina Diyas 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-1. Winning 67% of her first service points and breaking her opponent’s serve six times throughout the match.

“I was trying to get one win for the team, Johanna did a great job, I was just trying to make them proud today,” she told BT Sport.
“I showed yesterday how much it meant, I was so close but today I bounced back and got the win.
“We go again!!”

The triumph comes after what has been years of heartbreak for the British camp. Prior to 2019, they have been on the verge of reaching World Group II of the Fed Cup four times in seven years. Only to lose all of their play-off ties. Making their victory over Kazakhstan even more sweeter.

“Amazing. Just a heroic effort from the players this week, some fantastic tennis.” Team captain Anne Keothavong commented.
“Everyone here has been part of our journey and this has been an unforgettable weekend.
“Jo’s effort. coming back from behind, to Katie today. I think they have inspired a lot of people.”

Besides their new status, the contingent of player’s are hoping that their performances will help inspire the next generation. At present, there are five British players in the top 200 on the WTA Tour. Three of which are under the age of 22 (Boulter, Harriet Dart and Katie Swan).

“I hope that we have inspired a lot of kids here (in London) today to play tennis or do whatever they want to do.” Said team member Heather Watson.

It remains to be seen what is next for the Brits with the possibility of the Fed Cup changing its format. From next year there is a chance that the world group could be turned into a 12-team format. If this happened, Britain is likely to make that group thanks to their latest win.

https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/1120012995508285440

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Fed Cup

Australia Down Belarus In Thriller To End 26-Year Wait For Fed Cup Final

It is joy for the Aussies and heartbreak for Belarus in Brisbane.

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The Australian Fed Cup team (photo via https://twitter.com/FedCup)

The Australian duo of Ashleigh Barty and Sam Stosur has guided their country into the final of the Fed Cup for the first time since 1993 after a dramatic final day of their clash with Belarus.

 

Australia, who last won the team competition back in 1974, was pushed to their limits at the Pat Rafter Arena with the final match of the tie deciding their fate. After day one, they were held at 1-1 by Belarus. A team compromising of two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka and world No.10 Aryna Sabalenka.

Barty gave the home favourites an initial 2-1 advantage after she disposed of Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2. A player who she lost to twice during the second half of the 2018 season. However, Azarenka revived Belarus’ chances immediately with an emphatic 6-1, 6-1, win over tour veteran Stosur. Making it her first victory in the competition since 2016.

With all to play for, it was the doubles match that separated the two. During a roller coaster encounter, Barty and Stosur prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, over their rivals. Breaking twice in the decider on route to securing the overall 3-2 victory.

“It’s just super-exciting now to be in the Fed Cup final,” Stosur told fedcup.com afterwards. “All the girls, we work so hard throughout the year, and we really stick together as a team, Fed Cup weeks or not Fed Cup weeks. We’ve always got each others back, so to be in the Fed Cup final not I think a great reward for both of us, and we’re going to give it our best shot here in November.”

Team captain Alicia Molik has hailed the performance of her team. This year was the first time Australia has contested a semi-final of the competition since 2014. The country ranks third on the all-time list for more trophies won, but have failed to gain success in recent decades.

“It was just an incredible weekend,” Australian captain Molik reflected.
“We hadn’t exactly planned for it to come to the doubles, yet we were prepared. We got to that position, and I was really pleased today with both the outputs of Ash – it was phenomenal tennis out there – and Sam gave it her best.
“You can just see the joy in our faces too – winning that doubles rubber, what it means. We’re now in the final. I’m just so proud.”

In November’s final Australia will play either France or Romania.

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